Duke Chapel at Duke University
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Located on the Duke University’s west Campus, Duke Chapel is as magnificent in structure as it is in ministry.
Construction of the Chapel began in 1930 and was completed two years later.
Towering more than 290 feet, The Duke Chapel is a tribute to the talent and the patience to construct such a magnificent Chapel which is the cornerstone of the Duke Campus.
Beginning in September 2015, the team of Century Guild, Durham NC and The Keck Group, NY, were commissioned to clean and restore all of the woodwork in the chancel and transepts, portions of which rise more than 80 feet.
We are moving to completion by December 2015.
For one of America’s most prestigious church facilities, this year has seen the kickoff of the biggest full-scale restoration in its history. And for a niche company based in Middletown, New York, the project has presented the most high-profile opportunity in its history to show what it can do.
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New York’s legendary St. Patrick’s Cathedral (stpatrickscathedral.org) began work on March 17, 2013 – St. Patrick’s Day, of course – on a massive restoration that has involved everything from exterior and interior masonry to plaster, cast concrete, stain glass, bronze doors, and a wide variety of wood surfaces.
And when it comes to wood surfaces, no challenge is more important than the 400 pews that measure between 10 and 20 feet in length. The need to deploy fine craftsmanship to restore the pews to striking, impeccable condition prompted a call to The Keck Group.
Specialists in church pew restoration since 1972, The Keck Group has done work for churches as far away as Corpus Christi, Texas, although the company typically works in the eastern United States. The Keck Group has grown since its early days from 6,000 square feet of operation to 25,000 today, and has 13 full-time employees. With a specialty that absolutely demands the highest level of craftsmanship and attention to detail, The Keck Group’s growth has been the direct result of its excellence in this area. The work is complex and challenging, requiring precise care and intensive training for team members tasked with delivering a perfect finish.
While this is not the first time St. Patrick’s Cathedral has called on The Keck Group for help with pew restoration, the project is unprecedented in its size and scope.
“I would say it’s the most prestigious project we’ve done,” said Bob Koeck, the company’s founder, who has already overseen the complete refinishing of 200 pews that are ready to install.
If not for the gradual pace of the project, Koeck says the volume of the project could have been a serious challenge. The Keck Group’s normal production is 400 feet worth of pews per week. St.
Patrick’s Cathedral has 4,000 feet of pews all by itself – but the project is happening over a two-year period that allows The Keck Group to stay on schedule and still handle its normal workload from other churches.
“We take great care in making sure the end result is excellent. As we go through every step – taking the finish off, prepping, sanding, finishing – we have to apply best practices and tremendous attention to detail.” Koeck said. “A project this large would be one-fifth of our annual volume if it was done all at once, but since it’s being done over a two-year period everything has been able to stay on schedule.”
Ron Pennella, who is heading the restoration project for St. Patrick’s Cathedral, said The Keck Group won the job as a result of a rigorous bidding process that considered experience and skill, as well as price.
“They have history with the cathedral, they’re a local vendor, and I’ve worked with them before in the past,” Pennella said. “And Bob is a great guy, but at the end of the day it all came down to their qualifications, experience, and eventually price, which is a driving issue in today’s market.”
According to Rolando Kraeher, who serves as project architect and manager from the firm Murphy, Burnham & Buttrick, the challenging nature of the project made the type of experience offered by The Keck Group an absolute must.
“You don’t want to hire someone who has no experience, otherwise we would have to be holding their hands,” Kraeher said. “There is a lot of craftsmanship that goes into this, and as the architect you can’t specify what the level of finish needs to be and what they need to do, so you have to let the craftsman do their job – and that comes with experience. Bob Koeck and his company – they have it.”
The Keck Group, which owns and operates a state-of-the-art pew refinishing facility in Middletown, NY, is proud to welcome a new next-door neighbor, Catholic Charities Services of Orange County.
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Keck Properties recently negotiated with Catholic Charities at 1011 First Avenue to lease and subsequently build out an 8,000-square-foot office/conference facility in the Keck Group's 11,000-square-foot adjoining space. Agreement was reached in April of this year and the build-out was completed by the appointed deadline four months later.
Keck Properties finished the construction on time and in full compliance with all building, safety, and fire regulations. Catholic Charities took possession of their new custom-designed space on August 1, 2012, and from there they will continue to serve the community by offering their services to neighbors in need in the Middletown, NY area.
Bob Koeck, president of The Keck Group, Inc., is thrilled with this new arrangement. Still, he is happily amazed at how the agreement and resulting lease came to fruition: "In my wildest dreams I would have never envisioned having Catholic Charities, an integral part of the Archdiocese of New York, as a tenant," he said. "And to think, it all came about because of a chance meeting in the '70s."
Looking back, Koeck recalls how representatives of the New York Catholic Community, who had heard about his church pew restoration business, approached him for more information: "Instead of just explaining to them what we did and what was involved in the restoration and refinishing process, we invited them to take a tour of our facility. As we were showing them around, pointing out the pews and other religious furnishings in various stages of restoration, we started to form a sort of bond. We really clicked."
That one meeting led to their first business contract and gradually developed into a long-term working relationship--one that has flourished for over forty years.
Koeck adds that he is really looking forward to the upcoming dedication of the new facility by Cardinal Dolan on April 14th, 2013. And this time he hopes to give the Cardinal a tour of the shop. Why? So His Eminence can see first hand, pews from his own congregation being refinished—the ones that came from and will be returned to the famous St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan.
caption: The new site of Catholic Charities Services of Orange County owned by Keck Properties, LLC, adjacent to The Keck Group's church pew restoration and refinishing facility in Middletown, NY.